NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses the “NATO Engages: Innovating the Alliance” conference, December 3, 2019.
Good morning, good morning, happy birthday.
Thank you so much and happy birthday to all of you.
Yes. And I must begin with the question that I think is on everybody’s mind,
And that is?
How was your breakfast with President Trump?
It was, as always, a great breakfast. And we had an omelet, and some sausages, and brown toast and orange juice, so that was a great breakfast, and as always, paid by the United States. so we have
Oh dear, be careful. I hope there was a bit of burden sharing there, the Norwegians perhaps provided some sausages or, but a lot of words must have gone back and forth across that table. Let’s just randomly pick three. Very, very nasty. That’s what, how President Trump has described President Macron’s comment about the NATO Alliance, declaring it strategically brain dead. Now I know Norwegians and NATO Secretary Generals don’t use words like nasty, but at the very least, the comments by President Macron weren’t nice.
I have a comment of what he has said and I don’t agree. And I think that more important than that I don’t agree is the fact that when you look at NATO you see that we are actually delivering, we are doing more, we are acting together, we are proving every day that this alliance is agile, is active and is delivering. For instance, we have just implemented the biggest reinforcements of collective defense in the generation since the end of the Cold War. For the first time in our history we have combat-ready troops in the eastern part of Alliance, and we have tripled the size of the NATO response force, we’re able to reinforce if needed, we invest in high-end capabilities, we step up in the fight against terrorism and the new training mission in Iraq, and European allies are investing more in defense. So if you just look at the substance, you can see that this alliance is delivering.
[Moderator] Some say it’s the most successful alliance in history but there now seems to be some fundamental disagreements about this alliance’s future, its mission, and at the very least, to be the NATO Secretary General at this time, the fact that big people are raising big questions in public must be a matter of concern.
Yes and no. Because
Let’s deal with the yes first.
Yes because we should never question the unity and the willingness, the political willingness to stand together and to defend each other because the whole purpose of NATO is to preserve peace, is to prevent conflict by sending a clear message to any potential adversary that if one ally is attacked it will trigger a response from the whole alliance, and by doing that we preserve the peace, we prevent any conflict.
[Moderator] So let’s just be clear on this, because as you know, deterrence is not just a question of military hardware. You’re doing well on that front. It’s also a question of perception, and political credibility, and therefore, NATO’s credibility has been dented by these very public rows about even your founding principle, one for one, and all for one and one for all, collective security.
Yes but I think, but also strongly believe that the best way of expressing as well is actually do what we do, actions speaks louder than words, and the fact that we have these troops in the eastern part of the alliance, for the first time combat-ready troops, which are multi-lateral, multi-national troops, headed by or led by the U.S., Canada, and I think England, Germany, that sends a very clear message that if any of these countries are attacked, NATO’s already there, it will trigger a response from the whole Alliance.
[Moderator] The Baltic Expansion was a huge achievement but you have President Erdogan coming, telling you that if you don’t recognize his Kurdish enemies, the Kurds in Syria, as terrorists, he’s going to block the Baltic Expansion. Can you find a form of words to come out of this summit with healing that rift in keeping the Baltic
It’s well known that we have some issues related to how to designate the YPGPYG, the organization in Syria. There are different views among NATO allies. But we have plans in place to protect all the Baltic countries and Poland, not all their allies, and more than plans, we have forces. The fact that we have forces there sends a very clear message about our readiness to protect and defend our allies. And sometimes you’ve also heard that the U.S. is leaving Europe, that’s not correct. The U.S. is actually increasing their presence in Europe. It’s correct that after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. gradually reduced its military presence. The last U.S. combatant tank left the Bremenhoffen in December 2013 but now the U.S. is back with a full armored brigade and pre-positioned equipment for yet another brigade and even more. So there’s more U.S. presence in Europe, more U.S. troops in Europe, I can’t think about any stronger way to demonstrate U.S. commitment to Europe than that.
[Moderator] Okay, let’s deal with just one issue by issue. So do you think by tomorrow when the declaration of some kind is made, you will have found a form of words to resolve this growing rift with Turkey?
I won’t promise that, but what I can say is that we are working on that, and that we already have plans in place. What we are discussing is the revisional plans, we are constantly updating and revising plans, but it’s not like NATO doesn’t have a plan to defend the Baltic countries. We have a plan and as I said we have the forces. So, and we have the presence, so I think that’s the strongest expression of our collective defense our commitment to NATO’s collective defense.
President Macron has defended his comments and he actually says it’s been a wake-up call for NATO. So it’s been helpful. Others in the Alliance look at it differently. They’re saying actually his comments backfired because some big NATO partners like Germany doubled down on their commitment to NATO. How would you describe his intervention? Take, I know you can’t criticize, just take the personality out of it, that intervention. Helpful or a wake-up call that backfired?
I won’t go into that. What I would say is I don’t agree. And then the most important thing is for me actually what NATO does. I expect…
[Moderator] Did it force you, for example, I understand there is going to be at this meeting, it’s not a summit, there’s going to be an agreement on a wise person’s group to look at NATO’s future strategy?
What I expect the leaders to agree is that we will conduct the process, a reflection on how to further strengthen the political dimensional of NATO. Exactly how we organize that, I expect the Allies to ask me to put forward proposals, but the important thing is not exactly how we organize such a reflection, the important thing is we reflect on not whether we need NATO, not to question the permanence of NATO, but to reflect on how to further strengthen NATO, especially the political dimension of NATO. And I think that’s a good thing because we are 29 allies from both sides of the Atlantic. Of course there are differences. It would be strange if 29 allies with different political parties, different distribution to geography, always agree on everything. But the lesson we have learned from history is that despite these differences we have always been able to unite around our core policy to protect and defend each other because it’s in our international, our national security interests to do so. And we have to sometimes remember it’s not the first time there are differences between NATO allies. Going back to the serious crisis in ’56 or when France decided to leave the military cooperation ’66, or Iraq war in 2003, and many other examples, there have been differences. But this Alliance has shown an incredible strength, a resilience, an ability to deal with these differences without weakening the core policy of this Alliance.
[Moderator] But still, you’re absolute right that NATO has had to deal with these challenges consistently throughout its, throughout the decades. But there wasn’t Twitter in 1956
No, that’s true.
[Moderator] Or in 1966, there wasn’t the kind of social media which means our perceptions are forged by the fact that there’s this instantaneous information, and this is something that every morning you wake up you must wonder what’s gonna be on Twitter today.
Yes, but I think you just have to realize that’s a different world, that’s true. But if you look, for instance, at the opinion polls, especially in the United States, there’s record high support for NATO. And not only in the public opinion in the United States but also in the Congress, they have stated again and again the strong support for NATO. So this is big powers, and why, people are questioning the strength of the Trans-Atlantic bond on both sides of the Atlantic, actually there’s stronger public popular support for NATO than there has been for many, many, many years in most of the NATO allied countries, especially in the United States. Second, we’re doing more together, North America and Europe, than we’ve done for decades. With more U.S. presence and European allies stepping up. You know, I’m a politician and I’m used to being criticized for having good rhetoric but bad substance. And NATO is the opposite, we have bad rhetoric but extremely good substance. And And that’s a good thing.
[Moderator] Let’s take some questions from the audience. The lady in red, and the man in blue.
[Lady] I’m Patricia (Polish name) from the Polish Institute of International Affairs and I want to ask you about the substance, Mister Secretary General. It seems to me that there was one country behind the controversies in the political lack of cohesion within NATO, both when it comes to President Trump’s criticism of NATO and President Macron’s ideas for NATO in the future. And that’s China. So my simple question to you is what is NATO’s idea for China?
[Moderator] And it’s on the agenda for the first time in a NATO meeting.
The answer is that it is a very important thing that we have agreed in NATO that we need to address the rise of China together. Because until now, China was not on our agenda in a way, we left that to different allies, especially the United States and some other allies which are present in the Pacific, but China was not a NATO issue. But we have now, of course, recognized that the rise of China has security implications for all allies. There are some opportunities but also some obvious challenges. China has the second largest defense budget in the world, they recently displayed a lot of new modern capabilities, including long-range missiles able to reach all of Europe and the United States, hypersonic missiles gliders and you also see that this is not about moving NATO into the South China Sea, but it’s about taking into account that China’s coming closer to us. In the Arctic, in Africa, investing heavily in our infrastructure in Europe, in cyberspace. So we just have to understand that this has implications for NATO, and it is, for the first time, we have then decided that we need to address this together and we have work going on in NATO to develop a common approach to China. Not to create a new adversary but just to analyze, understand and respond in a balanced way to the challenges that China opposes.
There was a question here? No, question went away? Then to this gentleman.
[Solomon] Solomon Passy, the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria. One question, one invitation Secretary General. The question is to follow up on the question of China. Isn’t it time not to make a new adversary from China but to make a new start of a dialogue establishing NATO-China counsel in the way in which we have NATO-Russia counsel, it may work better than the previous one. This was a suggestion Atlantic Club of Bulgaria made some 10 years ago, but today I would integrate it with one idea more. In order to extend the Chinese, we need sort of a technological bridge with Taiwan which may help us a lot. And the invitation follows. Since Lord Carrington, your predecessor, you are the first Secretary General of NATO who hasn’t had the chance to address the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, but I was not persuasive enough, so I make use of this occasion to invite you to address the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria like your first predecessor, Donald, did.
All 500 of us will be there, don’t worry.
Okay but I recently visited Bulgaria, so I have to come back now, understand.
Let’s just take, get a sprinkle to see what the mood is in the audience, can we get a microphone to the gentleman with the, yeah, with the, people think it’s an auction here with their papers.
I’m Harlan Owen, the Atlantic Counsel, Secretary General, thank you for your comments. As you know, NATO spends about 15 times more in defense than Russia does. Only four NATO states physically border on Russia, six if you count the, Kaliningrad, so I’m wondering why is spending more money going to make NATO more secure, and spending more money really doesn’t address what I think is a primary Russian threat, namely active measures. Could you comment on both of those please?
I didn’t get,
Active measures. Why spend more. So let’s take first the issue, a NATO-China counsel.
We don’t have any plans to establish a NATO-China counsel but we believe and also of course have political contacts with China, we have some inter-alliance communications, the Deputy Secretary General, the former Deputy Secretary General visited China, I think a year ago or something, and of course we are not going to establish a new adversary, but to just have to take into account that the rise of China has implications for our security and analyzing and addressing that together. On defense spending. You know, I’m always a bit careful about these figures. Partly because, when you compare NATO defense spending with Russia defense spending, you use market prices for currency. And you don’t take into account the huge cost differences. So of course the cost for a soldier, an officer in Russia is totally different than the cost in a NATO ally country. Or in Norway or in the United States or Britain. So if you try to introduce some kind of purchasing power comparisons, then those figures are totally different. So not saying, I’m only saying that precise and accurate ways to measure is not so easy when you compare so different economies with so totally different cost levels. Second, NATO’s increased defense spending’s not only about Russia. It’s correct that it was triggered by the fact that Russia used military force against neighbors in Ukraine, in Georgia but also by the fact that we had to step up in the fight against terrorism. It was a big military undertaking to liberate all the territory that ISIS controlled in Iraq and Syria and we need to respond also to new threats including in cyber, need higher readiness of forces, and all that, so we always used defense spending after the end of the Cold War to record lower numbers, but then when we do that when tensions are going down, we have to be able to increase defense spending when tensions are going up. And 2% is historically not that high. During the Cold War it was more like 3 and 4%, so yeah, I think it’s the right thing to do and I welcome the fact that our allies now are increasing when we made the pledge three allies met the 2% guideline, now nine allies meet the 2% guideline. All allies have stopped the cuts, all allies are increasing, and the majority of allies have plans in place to meet 2% by 2024. So this is a huge difference and that shows that NATO is delivering, we are agile and active.
[Moderator] You’ve often said, Secretary General, that there’s a two-track approach to Russia, dialogue and deterrence. Some NATO members are saying there should be more dialogue. Do you think the balance is right now or is this something you think should be discussed here in London or outside London.
First of all I strongly believe in this dual-track approach because I think there’s no contradiction between deterrents, defense and dialogue. Actually I believe as long as we are strong, as long as we are firm, we can also engage in a dialogue with Russia and I say that also because that’s my Norwegian experience. Even during the coldest period of the Cold War, we were able to work with Russia on issues like the delimitation line and Bering Sea, fishery, energy, environment, many other things, so it’s possible to make deals with Russia. And I strongly believe that NATO and NATO allies can do the same. I agree that we need to deliver on the tenants and defense and we are delivering on that. But at the same time, I think that we could do more and should do more on dialogue. This is partly to strive for a better relationship with Russia, but even if we don’t believe that we’re able to improve relationship with Russia, at least in the near future, we need to manage a difficult relationship. Avoid incidents, accidents and more military presence with high tensions, we have to make sure that we have as much transparency and the ability as possible to avoid dangerous situations from occurring. The last thing I want to say about dialogue with Russia is arms control. We need to find new ways of raising arms control the demise of INF Treaty is really a serious setback. We need to find, and that was one of the issues we will discuss at the leaders’ meeting tomorrow, how to reinvigorate, how to find ways to conduct credible re-arms control especially in the nuclear domain.
[Moderator] Wonder if there’s more under 35’s who want to ask a question.
There’s a woman over there. You’re not able to ese her because, she’s
[Moderator] Okay, there’s two women here, and there’s some men in here.
Thank you, I’m 32. Dr. Katheryn Wright, Lecturer of International Politics at Newcastle University. So NATO reaffirmed its commitment to U.N. security counsel resolution 1325, in the Women, Peace and Security agenda last year and the revised NATO EAPC policy. I wondered if you can tell us Secretary General what is the value of Women, Peace and Security to NATO. Thank you.
[Moderator] You want to just hold that, there’s two, there’s three, on the man took the microphone, okay.
[Lessandro] Hey, good morning, Lessadro Marroni from (foreign language). As NATO is a political military alliance, not just a military one, how do you see possible developments in terms of partnerships with countries in North Africa and Middle East and efforts to stabilize the southern flank of NATO. Thank you.
[Moderator] Okay, 1325, Women, Peace and Security
The Women, Peace and Security is extremely important for NATO and actually when I was prime minister in Norway, Norway’s actually was the first country to finance a special post, a special representative on Women, Peace and Security, and now this is a permanent position in NATO because we realize that gender equality is not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do. This is part about mobilizing women as part of the armed forces in our member states, but also of course when we do missions and operations, to make sure that we do everything that we can to prevent sexual abuse and all the ways of misconduct. Part of our own forces so they’re all trained and also learned how to behave but not least by reporting when we see examples of misconduct or sexual abuse or bad behavior against women and children. And also when we train, we trained Afghan forces, we trained forces elsewhere in the world, Iraqi forces, then Women, Peace and Security is part of that.
[Moderator] Okay, and in terms of counter-terrorism and cooperation to the south,
Oh sorry, no that’s of course important. And I strongly believe that NATO has to be able to deploy large number of troops in big combat operations to fight terrorism as we’ve done or to address crisis as has been done in the Balkans and in Afghanistan. We have to be able to do that again. But in the long run, it’s better to train local forces, prevention’s better than intervention. So I strongly believe in working with partners and enabling them to stabilize their own country. And therefore we work also with partners in North Africa especially Tunisia, but also partners in North Africa, helping them to develop their defense and security institutions, intelligence, special operation forces, because if we are able to do that, then they will, it’s more likely they will succeed in stabilizing their own countries and that’s important for them but of course also important for us. If our neighbors are more stable, we are more secure.
[Moderator] Okay. The two ladies here.
[Nadio] Nadia Siscoria, I’m associate fellow at Tbilisi. Thank you very much Mr. Stoltenberg for your very useful comments and most importantly thank you so much for your continued support to Georgia. Yet we see that almost every single day Russia keeps violating the Georgian sovereignty, so my question to you is how likely it is that countries like Georgia and Ukraine that suffered the most from the Russian occupation may be offered a membership into an alliance in any foreseeable future. Thank you.
So NATO decided at the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008, I was there, myself in a different capacity, I remember we decided then that Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO. This decision still stands. At the same time, we are not putting in place any exact timetable. What we focus on now is how we can help both Georgia and Ukraine moving towards Eurodantic integration, implementing reforms, mobilizing the defense and security institutions, and to speak about Georgia, we have more NATO presence in Georgia now than ever before. We have a training center outside Tbilisi, we have a big exercise there, we have political close contacts are interested in North Atlantic counsel, this in Tbilisi, so long ago we also went to Ukraine, and so we are working with both Georgia and Ukraine, and I think that there’s a lot between full membership and nothing. And what we do is that, why we are helping Georgia and Ukraine moving towards NATO, we are also delivering more cooperation that’s good for Georgia and Ukraine, but it’s also good for NATO because Georgia and Ukraine participate in NATO missions and operations, for instance, in Afghanistan.
[Moderator] It’s fantastic that so many hands going up, this is truly the spirit of NATO engages but sadly we have four minutes and 18 seconds.
Thank you very much, I’m (foreign name), political scientist. My question is about 2%. You say 2%, I think it’s more quantitative measurement and it has taken a lot of attention of NATO member states though you kind of underestimate the importance of qualitative aspect and qualitative feedback you need from your previous operations in terms of as you said managing difficult relations with Russia and also as my previous colleague said, about active measures. So how helpful is it to talk about quantitative metrics when we have we have qualitative problems. Thank you.
We need both, and what we agreed when we made the pledge to invest more, was agreed to spend more and spend better. So therefore this is part about spending more, investing more, but is also about spending better, so we all agreed for instance that we should invest more in research and development. We have this 20% pledge, 20% of the defense budget should be allocated for research development and investments in new capabilities. So we have to do both. But I think in the long run it’s always a, you cannot get more out of less. So we cannot continue to cut, you need input to have some output. And the problem is that of course, I agree it is quality, it is the output that matters at the end of the day. It’s harder to measure output so therefore I think it’s important that we focus on both, both on quality but also on the need for having more resources, and the good thing is that’s exactly what NATO is doing now.
[Moderator] Okay, there’s a question over on this side. Hand went down. This one here, yeah. Woman with her hand up.
[Woman] I’m (crosstalk), University of Sheffield and with regards to emerging security threats, how important do you think the Arctic will be as a setting of increasing tensions with American attempted intervention, perhaps more jokingly with Greenland, but also Russia’s involvement with their increased presence there?
The Arctic, the importance of the Arctic is increasing for several reasons. Partly because we see more Russian presence up in the Arctic, we also see China is increasing their presence in the Arctic, they define themselves as a near Arctic country trying to be a member of the Arctic Counsel. And of course, the melting of the ice means also that the whole geography is going to change because it will be easier to have economic activity sea lines of communication, and so on, also in the Arctic and also from the Northeast Passage and actually perhaps also the Northwest Passage. So this is changing importance of the Arctic, therefore we also need to make sure NATO is present in the Arctic. And some of the investments that we make in new ships, maritime capabilities, surveillance capabilities, but also aircraft capabilities, are relevant for the Arctic. At the same time I have always been part of this tradition where we used to say we have the high north and low tensions. And we should at least try to maintain cooperation with all the Arctic states, including Russia. In the Arctic Counsel and also in the Bering Sea Counsel. So this again, we have this balance between military presence but also political cooperation with Russia up in the Arctic.
[Moderator] I’m very sorry we only have 30 seconds left and I think let’s try to give a message to the Secretary General to bring to these very important meetings of the Alliance of the 70th birthday. How many of you in this room are in a mood to celebrate with the Alliance at 70? Okay, and how many of you are coming to this birthday party, well a little bit worried that some things have to change.
I would like to change, NATO has to change.
Just one last word from you, if you Google NATO 70th, the words which would come up on social media would be muted celebration, dysfunctional family, fractious, headaches for you. What words would you use to describe this moment in light of the challenges and successes at your door?
That NATO is the most successful alliance in history because we have always been able to change. And as long as we continue to change we will continue to be the most successful alliance in history. So I’m extremely in favor of change. You asked people whether they were in favor of change, or in favor of celebration, I’m in favor of change and celebration. And that’s the message.
Happy birthday, thank you for joining us.